3. Chocolate Factory (2003)
This is the sound of an artist at his complete, unmitigated artistic freedom. While R. Kelly’s landmark solo debut 12 Play is wildly recognized as his definitive bump-and-grind statement, Chocolate Factory reigns as the Chicago native’s Sign ‘O The Times. And just as Prince produced an eclectic, one-man-band opus that genre-jumped with much ease, ambition and focus, Kelly turned in a seemingly effortless performance that truly separated him from his peers. Whether it’s the smile-inducing, old school, Ch-Town charm of “Step in the Name of Love,” the heartfelt, gut bucket blues of “You Made Me Love You” or the sexed-up playfulness of “Ignition (Remix),” Kelly soars, and then some.